Famous college football traditions from around the country
On Nov. 6, 1869, Rutgers and Princeton (then called the College of New Jersey) faced off in what would become the first-ever college football game. About 100 fans showed up for the game, which was played in New Brunswick, New Jersey. When all was said and done, Rutgers came out victorious, winning 6-4.
However, the game itself looked almost nothing like the college football games today. Each team was made up of 25 players, as opposed to the 125-man active rosters college teams have today. During that first game, points were scored after a team kicked the ball into the opponent’s goal. Aside from their feet, players were allowed to bat the ball with their hands, heads, and sides to move it up and down the field. They weren’t, however, allowed to throw or carry the ball. Ten rounds were played with a single point awarded to the scoring team at the end of each round.
In 2019, college football will celebrate its 150th anniversary. So much has changed over the last century and a half. In 1943, helmets became mandatory for every player on the field. In 1958, Louisiana State University coach Paul Dietzel went from playing with a single platoon to playing with an offensive squad and a defensive squad. In the same year, the University of Houston signed the first two African-American football players. Warren McVea and Paul Gipson integrated what had been an all-white sport. The list could go on and on.
One thing that hasn’t changed is how integral traditions are to the game. Since the sport’s beginning, it’s been these traditions that have transformed college football games from mere sporting matchups to actual events. From pregame festivities to before-kick-off hype, halftime practices to post-game celebrations, and all the songs, chants, and cheers that take place in between, it’s the traditions that make college football stand out among all collegiate sports.
Today, Stacker has rounded up 30 famous college football traditions from around the country. Using various sources, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most recognizable and inspiring rituals. From the Iowa Wave to Mizzou’s homecoming game, read on for some of the best traditions around.
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University of Georgia: Light Up Sanford
A relatively new tradition, the University of Georgia’s “Light Up Sanford” practice started as a social media campaign in 2015 but has since become a fixture of the team’s night games. Right before the beginning of the fourth quarter, some 93,000 fans turn on their cell-phone flashlights while the band plays “Krypton Fanfare,” resulting in a truly dazzling light show. Former Georgia student Kenneth Hubbard described the notion behind the tradition, saying, “It’s about us being there for the team in the fourth quarter when we are rallying behind them…Whether we are up by 40 points or down by 40 points, we just want to make sure that [the team] knows the fans are there for them.”
University of Oklahoma: The Sooner Schooner
University of Texas: Live mascot, Bevo
During a 1916 matchup between the University of Texas and Texas A&M, two West Texas cowboys dragged a frightened longhorn steer out onto the 50-yard line. Officially a gift from UT alumni to the current student body, the animal became one of college sports’ few live mascots. His name, Bevo, was a play on the word Beeve, slang for a cow or steer destined to become food. To date, there have been 15 different Bevos; fans can follow the current iteration on Twitter.
Auburn University: Tiger Walk
According to Auburn University itself, the tiger walk is one of the most “imitated traditions in all of college sports.” Two hours before the start of each home game, the Auburn Tigers walk down Donahue Drive from the Athletics Complex to Jordan-Hare Stadium. But the football team isn’t making the walk alone—thousands of Auburn fans and students line the streets, cheering and yelling, in what is one of the most invigorating traditions in all of college football.
University of Iowa: Iowa Wave
In 2017, the Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital was completed. The hospital lies directly behind Kinnick Stadium, where the Hawkeyes play all of their home games. During the 2017 home opener, the Iowa announcer asked all 70,000 fans in attendance to turn and wave at the fans watching from the hospital windows. It was a simple gesture that turned into a heartwarming tradition. Now, at the end of the first quarter, everyone in the stadium turns and waves at the children and their families, even lighting their cell-phone flashlights during night games so that the Iowa Wave can’t be missed.
The United States Military Academy West Point: “March On” ritual
Perhaps the single most tradition-rich game in all of college football, the annual Army-Navy game certainly has a host of time-honored traditions to choose from. One that stands out, is the “March On.” Before kick-off, the entire student bodies of both the United States Military Academy and the United States Naval Academy march on to the field in an impressive display of cohesion, before taking their respective seats.
Ohio State University: Script Ohio
The Ohio State marching band first performed its first Script Ohio on Oct. 10, 1936. Today, the formation is performed at every single football game. The honor of dotting the I is given to a fourth- or fifth-year sousaphone player.
University of Colorado Boulder: Ralphie’s Run
Another university with a live mascot, the University of Colorado Boulder has a buffalo named Ralphie. Ralphie, alongside a team of five handlers, opens every Folsom Field home game, leading the team onto the field before completing a horseshoe pattern around the end zone.
University of Missouri: Homecoming
While nearly every college in the country has a homecoming tradition, it is said that Mizzou was the first school to hold an annual homecoming event. Back in 1911, Coach Chester Brewer invited alumni to “come home” for the Missouri-Kansas football game, which was then, as it is today, a fierce rivalry. Nearly 9,000 alumni showed up, and Mizzou’s homecoming remains one of the biggest in the nation.
[Pictured: The 2019 Mizzou homecoming game.]
Georgia Tech: The Ramblin’ Wreck
The official mascot of Georgia Tech is a 1930 Ford Model A sport coupe. Painted the same yellow as the Yellow Jackets’ uniforms, the Ramblin’ Wreck, loaded up with cheerleaders and the school’s other mascot, Buzz, races onto the field at the start of each game leading the football team behind it. The old jalopy has also inspired another major school tradition—the “Ramblin’ Wreck From Georgia Tech” fight song.2018 All rights reserved.